(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)
What happens when you use a knife repetitively? Over time, the blade starts squishing tomatoes instead of slicing them.
Pencils need sharpening. Pens need refills, drills need charging. Tools have to be maintained in order to be effective.
In a similar way, we are instruments of God. Are we sharpened, filled, and charged for action? Or, are we gunked up, run down and dull?
If we are going to be strong in the Lord and those in our congregations are to be strong, we all need to stay sharp with continuing education and training.
In the past few posts, we have discussed the necessity of equipping children and new Christians. Experienced Christians need this equipping as well, albeit on a more advanced level. Like the tools mentioned above, we need regular sharpening to stay effective.
Our churches are dwindling, not just in size but in effectiveness. We heap the responsibilities of growth and teaching on a handful of people and fail to train replacements! We need people who will teach classes, visit the elderly, reach out to the lost, lead worship, train children, show hospitality. In other words, we need to train ourselves out of a job so that when we die, someone else will be there to pick up where we left off. Do you honestly think the preacher is the only one who is supposed to be doing these things?
If this is the current state of affairs in your congregation, it’s time to light a metaphorical fire under your members.
Use your talents and develop some new ones.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
~ Romans 12.4-8, ESV
What do you do for a living? Would you consider it your talent? Do you have hobbies outside of your job? Are any of these things something you can use to serve or minister to others? It’s time to get to work for the Lord.
Once you’ve started using your gifts for the Lord, ask yourself a new question: what are you uncomfortable with? Maybe it’s leading public prayer in worship. Maybe it’s having people over to your house. Perhaps it’s teaching a class. Whatever the circumstance, consider what area you are weak in and seek to improve it.
Let’s face it—we all have areas in which we thrive. Not all of us are cut out to be effective teachers, but that does not mean we should avoid learning how to do it. Not all of us are good at hospitality, but that does not mean we should be hermits. Being a Christian demands that we step outside our cozy corners and learn to do things we would normally avoid.
Be a mentor.
Are you someone who is really good at showing hospitality? It’s time to start mentoring. Next time you plan to have someone over, ask someone else to share in it with you. Teach them by example how to host people in your home.
Are you good at teaching? It’s time to start mentoring. Ask one of the younger people to sit in on the class with you to observe how you teach.
Do you excel at ministering to those in need? Don’t go alone! Take somebody with you so they can observe how to interact and how to be a servant to others.
Are you an older mother or wife? Take a younger woman under your wing and encourage her to be a loving wife and strong mother.
If you are an experienced Christian, you need to seek out others to take along side to teach, train, and mentor. Most of us avoid this as it can be rather discouraging. Not everybody wants to learn. Keep seeking people out. Keep teaching. If you need a break, take it, get refreshed, and start the process again. Growing the church is not just about numbers, it’s about creating strong workers for the Lord.
Sharpen the blade.
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
~ 2 Timothy 2.1-2, ESV
Here are a few things we need to focus on teaching in either home bible classes or church bible classes:
Refresher course on the basics
Over time those basics get a little rusty. Teaching basics allows any Christians who may not have had a “basics” course to get the information they need. It gives us insight on teaching people. It reminds us of our foundations.
A basics course should cover things like how to pray, how to study, baptism, the plan of salvation, the roles of God, Jesus, and the Spirit, biblical authority etcetera.
Contextual Studies in the Scripture (book-by-book)
This should be a lifelong pursuit. Reading and studying the bible contextually allows us to understand things in their proper place. We need to have these studies going all the time, either in home or at church. (Christians should be engaged in daily bible reading on their own as well!)
This is good old-fashioned Defending and Contending 101. This study should include not only the why’s of what we believe, but how to effectively communicate with those who have contrary viewpoints and the necessity of a humble spirit.
Points an experienced Christian should be able to effectively defend:
- The existence of God.
- The deity of Jesus
- The resurrection of Jesus.
- The Bible (it’s authority, it’s origins and it’s integrity)
- Creation (This is important. Many would say this is not a “salvation” issue. However, if you don’t believe that God created the earth, then you are basically calling him a liar since He proclaims Himself as the Creator throughout the scriptures.)
- Salvation. We need to know why we are saved and instill confidence in others as to why they ought to be saved.
There are times that specific topics need to be directly addressed. Note: In your studies on topical issues, be sure to consider bible verses within their proper contexts. I have seen too many people yank verses out of context and destroy their intended meaning. In an old joke, a man said “I’ll do whatever God commands me just by pointing to the bible. So he opened it up, jabbed his finger at the print and read, “Judas went out and hung himself.” Whoops. He flipped a few pages and touched the text again and read, “Go thou and do likewise.” Ummm… He did repeated the exercise and read, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
Three things to remember in every study: Context, context, and context!
Are you ready to train yourself and train yourself out of a job?
What other ways can we sharpen each other as Christians? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
If you have missed the previous posts in this series, here is a list of what we’ve covered: